James Reilly blames Dáil exit on his ‘time in health’

James Reilly clutched his wife’s hand tightly when the returning officer confirmed he had lost his seat to Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly.
James Reilly blames Dáil exit on his ‘time in health’

The deputy leader of Fine Gael was eliminated on the 10th and final count in Dublin Fingal, the constituency in which he had topped the poll in 2011.

His supporters seemed resigned about his fate from the time they saw the final tally on Saturday afternoon that put the Sinn Féin candidate at 9%, just 1% ahead of him.

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien was elected on the first count and Independents 4 Change candidate Clare Daly was elected on the fourth.

Ms O’Reilly joined Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell and Labour’s Brendan Ryan, who were elected on the 10th count without reaching the quota.

Dr Reilly arrived at the count centre at the Irish Kennel Club, Cloghran, Co Dublin, minutes before his fate was sealed.

With him were his wife Dorothy, sons Tiernan, Noel, Jamie, and Conan, and daughter Megan. He looked crushed and crestfallen but glad of their support. Asked why he thought he had lost his seat, Mr Reilly said the three years he spent as minister for health between 2011 and 2014 was a key factor.

“My time in health would not have been exactly helpful — when the country had no money and a lot of hard decisions had to be made.”

Mr Reilly said the government managed to reverse some of these decisions because they were “very hard” on people.

“As somebody who would have worked as a doctor, they were fairly repugnant to me,” he said. “But if you are a member of cabinet, you have to take cabinet responsibility for decisions made around budget time that have, ultimately, the consequences they have.”

Asked if he was out of politics for good, he said he did not think it was a day to make decisions like that.

“I could put it this way —my wife would feel sorry for me but delighted for us.”

The count in Dublin Fingal resumed yesterday with a re-check of the eighth count requested by Barry Martin of Independents 4 Change when he was just 22 votes behind Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford Lee.

The re-check produced no material change, after which Mr Martin and then Ms Clifford Lee were eliminated.

Mr Martin said they asked for a re-check of transfers when Green Party candidate Joe O’Brien was eliminated.

He decided to make a “dignified exit” as he did not think a recount would change things. When Ms Clifford Lee’s votes were distributed, Mr Reilly finished in sixth place with 6,215 votes — the quota was 10,065.

In the 2011 election, Mr Reilly’s vote of 10,718 at the first count was 308 above the quota.

Mr Farrell was elected with 9,965 votes; Ms O’Reilly with 8,771; and Mr Ryan with 9,406. Ms Daly, who secured 9,480 first preference votes and was elected on the fourth count with 10,566, said she was absolutely “happy out” with her performance and that of her running mate, Mr Martin.

However, she was “very surprised” that Mr Reilly was left struggling and Mr Martin was doing better than he was. “I must say I never saw that coming,” she said.

She had expected Darragh O’Brien to do well as he was a “charismatic guy” and had campaigned long and hard to be elected.

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